Glory rushed to the door but stopped short. What was she supposed to do? Fight them with her bare hands? Tell them she was third generation godling, and they had just better mind their Ps and Qs if they knew what was good for them? She knew the shadows wouldn’t hide her longer than it took them to open the door, and none of the rocks at her feet were of a size to be much good as a weapon. Maybe she should have retreated back into Shub Niggurath’s ‘womb’ after all.
She backed up into the dark beside the door where she would be out of their direct line of sight, but she could already see light from a candle or lantern seeping under the door. The whisperers paused on the other side of the door, if she was any judge, in urgent conference over how they should proceed. Their hesitation wouldn’t last forever. She backed up even further into the darkness.
By accident or design, she had learned two things from Shub Niggurath’s story beyond the short history of her people. Glory had watched Shub Niggurath and others transform and use illusions, and because she had been seeing the events through the Elder God’s memory, she’d been privy to the processes required to achieve both. Of the two, illusion seemed the more difficult if only because it required manipulation of light and matter outside her body. How she longed for her invisibility cloak! She finally understood how it worked as well, for all the good it did her.
As the door began to open, she looked at her hand in the dim light from the single torch where it still flickered near the water‘s edge. She willed it to change, to become a weapon she could use to defend herself. It was only a matter of control, of manipulating cells which were already in the process of flux if Phoenix was to be believed. Her body was dropping the matter of her mother’s universe for the more porous substance, both light and particle, that formed the universe of her father‘s folk. In another dimension, thought was gravity and matter sang according the will of the one who wielded it. Selfhood was a temporary illusion formed by an idea, a quirk of will. The only question was, in the Dreamlands, would she be able to speed up a biological process which had supposedly been put on hold by the place itself.
Glory took in a breath as she felt her hand and arm grow numb and prickle painfully at the same time. As the two robed men came through the door with weapons at the ready, she let out a howl of pain. The younger of the two took a step back in surprise. Once it began, the transformation spread rapidly, sending daggers of agony and oily black flesh boiling up her arm to her shoulder, the shoulder with the Elder Sign tattoo. An electric shock went through her, radiating from her shoulder. She felt sick and suddenly, desperately angry as the pain temporarily robbed her of her reason. All she knew was that she was tired of being forced to defend herself.
Glory was glad when one of the men raised his sword to attack. It gave her an excuse to flex that awful limb where her arm had been. The mass of elongated flesh responded to her will, exploding outwards to wrap itself around the man’s head and squeeze.
She released him with a yelp as his companion swung his sword at what was a tentacle only through the most abstract definition. The blade sliced through her arm like butter, but the pain she had expected didn’t come. The length that he cut away fell to the ground like a mass of falling liquid and oozed across the floor to where she stood, the substance of her arm and the ooze on the floor straining towards one another until they rejoined.
The dead priest slumped to the ground, and Glory avoided looking at what remained of his head, suddenly guilty. Both her shame and her reaction to the pain were stupid visceral responses. Though she hardly thought the men were there to offer her flowers and candy, she chided herself for not being smart enough to avoid using brutality. It would be too easy to lose herself in a violent outburst, a cathartic tantrum directed at what was only the latest offense in a string of irritations.
Though she expected the second priest to run or attack, he did neither. Lowering his sword slightly, he made a curious gesture with his free hand, like an OK sign but with his middle two fingers twisted around one another. I wasn’t familiar to her, but it made her flinch all the same. He grinned.
“You’re weak,” he sneered, “as our god said you would be. You will never come into your full power in the Dreamlands. I could stab you in the heart, and you would die like any mortal.”
“Why should Bokrug care about me anyway?” Glory countered, feeling vaguely nauseous and unable to keep a slight sulk out of her tone. Her shoulder was still on fire from the transformation, but her mind felt foggy and dim as if she‘d somehow become disconnected from the gravity of the situation.
“Only a fool questions his god‘s motives,” the priest replied, raising his chin with an air of pride. “Perhaps you offended him in some way on Earth.” He kept his hand raised in the weird gesture as he edged closer. Glory’s arm twitched but she felt too disoriented to do much more than stand and wait for him.
“I never even heard of him before we arrived here!” she said angrily, “If this is about Sarnath, we were transported there and left just as quickly.”
“Sarnath? Feh!” He snorted. “As if my Lord cares any more for that haunted pit. The Great Old Ones have many names, as you should well know. Who is to say which is the original? In the Dreamlands, he is Bokrug the water-lizard god, but on Earth he is Tsathoggua. It is not for me to say how you offended him, here or there. I and my brothers have only been tasked with bringing your death!”
His sword was too heavy to swing while he continued to hold up his other arm in the awkward sign, but the priest got as close as he could before dropping his arm. Freed in that moment, Glory barely had time to dodge. Instead of falling back however, she dropped and rolled, jarring her aching shoulder but lashing out at the same time with her weird new limb. He went down with a shout, but Glory was already on her feet and running.
to Book 6, part 3, page 4
Bonus Flash: When We Were Six